Achieve Balance

Providing advocating and consulting services to parents of children needing more support from their school district. Specializing in working with families across the US who have adopted internationally and need both ESL and Special Education services.

Erin Johnson is the mother to eight children, 5 of whom were internationally adopted and have special education and English as a Second Language needs. Erin has extensive experience advocating in the public school special education system for her own children as well as families across the US. Erin has also studied Neuroenergetic Kinesiology, Brain Integration, and is a Touch for Health Practitioner which she finds extremely helpful when working with children and families touched by trauma.

Mission: Empowering all families to take back control of their child's future by educating them on how to effectively advocate in the public school special education system with a particular focus on internationally adopted children.

Advocates For Equity In Schools


Dear Educators across the USA,

Please remember ESY is a part of FAPE and yes EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR services must be considered for all children with IEP's.

Also, as you are aware there are six factors to consider when determining if a child requires those ESY services:
1. Regression/recoupment
2. Lack of progress on current IEP
3. Emerging skills
4. Nature and severity of the disability
5. Interfering behaviors
6. Special circumstances

Please know that every child with an IEP who did not get access to their IEP services the last 9 weeks or so of the school year would be consider a VERY SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCE which should be considered. It is called COVID-19 which stood in the way of the children accessing their FAPE.

Now, they probably did not master all of their IEP goals thereby a lack of progress; there might be some emerging skills without the full year of IEP services; they might have an increase of interfering behaviors with the lack of services for nine weeks; and if their disabilities by nature regress without continuity and consistency of services or the severity of the disability is such that they require ongoing services then those, too, all are reasons to provide those students with ESY.

Ms. Just keeping it real


§ 300.106 Extended school year services.
(a) General.

(1) Each public agency must ensure that extended school year services are available as necessary to provide FAPE, consistent with paragraph (a)(2) of this section.

(2) Extended school year services must be provided only if a child's IEP Team determines, on an individual basis, in accordance with §§ 300.320 through 300.324, that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE to the child.

(3) In implementing the requirements of this section, a public agency may not -

(i) Limit extended school year services to particular categories of disability; or

(ii) Unilaterally limit the type, amount, or duration of those services.

(b) Definition. As used in this section, the term extended school year services means special education and related services that -

(1) Are provided to a child with a disability -

(i) Beyond the normal school year of the public agency;

(ii) In accordance with the child's IEP; and

(iii) At no cost to the parents of the child; and

(2) Meet the standards of the SEA.

The Forgotten Initiative

Advocates For Equity In Schools



Excellent advice

Dear Case Manager,
Thank you for reaching out about scheduling SunDrop's annual IEP meeting to see what my current concerns are with her education.

Since being home and providing all of her instruction for the last six weeks I have noticed that she can not independently do the skills in the home setting that you say she has mastered in the school setting. I have collected daily data on all of her IEP Goals and have attached that data to this email for you to add the information to the IEP and share with all of her IEP Team for them to review.

This daily data clearly shows me that we must write goals that she is working on daily and not just 'observations' a few times a reporting period as she must master these skills daily and we need to teach the skill daily for generalize across all environments.

Additionally, by raising the bar on the daily instruction in these areas that I am now requesting, I can also see by being her Crisis Schooling Teacher that she does require a higher level and intensity of services that she has received in the past. So please add this my Parental Concerns for Enhancing SunDrop's education but also to her Functional and Academic Present Levels of Performance as I am also currently serving as her Teacher and this is my baseline data for developing next year's plan in all areas of need.

Also, you will notice that I have included data in regards to her attending to task, asking for a break, and refusing to work which have always been disruptive to her own learning but now I can see they are problematic to her ability to stay on topic, on task, or even complete a task without multiple prompts. Please accept this data as my request for Goals to teach her to learn to self regulate in the classroom, task completion, and starting an assignment within one minute of instruction without prompting to increase her work completion for her success!

Ms. Parent and Educator now
So this information is both Parental Concerns AND NEW Data from her current educator


Let's find ways to use this as an opportunity to gather DATA on the areas of need that we see in our children during this time. All of those previous IEP goals that the district said your child has MASTERED - pull them out and make a MASTERY list of them and run that list items during their 'schooling' and see does SunDrop actual have the skill MASTERED and has she MAINTAINED it. If Not --- GREAT DATA to take to the team to help advocate for your children, too.


TIPS for families handling the COVID-19 closures

1. Ensure that you document services provided or not provided in respect of “remote learning” during COVID-19

2. Keep a journal of work done and instruction received during COVID-19 including any regression and new behaviors.

3. Districts who are not providing adequate special education services are simply denying FAPE - this is an IDEA and section 504 violation (There are some misunderstandings that special education instruction doesn’t have to be given if general education is not provided)

Help! How Do I Quarantine-School my Special Needs Child!?

Join me and Care For Children International- Dr Ronald Federici CEO tomorrow on a webinar to discuss how to handle special education issues while managing behaviors. Quarantine-Schooling is stressful! Let us answer your questions about what you *really* need to be focussed on.
🌀Sign up now to submit questions!🌀
🔷Please SHARE🔷

Get IEP Help

From another of my colleagues, Cheryl Poe, to modify and use. You need this if/when the school/district is trying to modify/curtail your IEP right now (not if it's a temporary plan - though that cannot say anything about not giving your child compensatory services later). Cheryl is working on a national template to use - we'll post that once it's ready.


If anyone says that now is not the time to protect your child's educational rights during these closures - they are giving you BAD advice. IF you do not protect your children's rights - by knowing them and exercising them - nobody else ever will.

The Ultimate Webinar

Join me and Care For Children International- Dr Ronald Federici CEO on a live webinar at 1pm on Thursday April 16 to answer questions about how to handle education needs, behaviors, and IEPs with your kids at home during quarantine. Special focus on adopted kids and kids with special needs. Spots are limited! Sign up to submit your questions!


Dear Parents in the state of VA,
It has come to my attention that Reid Smith Law Firm has provided many of the school districts in our state recommendations of getting us all to sign an amendment to the IEP instead of holding IEP meetings without informing you of all of your rights which do include compensatory education discussion with the IEP Team when school resumes if required. (Reid Smith Law Firms represents a large percentage of school districts in the state of Virginia)

Now, the LEA's have been advised that they can agree to services with the parents during this closure without holding an IEP meeting so this is how they are allowed to do it this way instead of holding IEP meetings which we all know would be extremely difficult during these conditions.

So, if you are signing these AMENDMENTS to agree to nominal services during this closure you need to add a statement at the bottom saying this:

"I am agreeing to these services that the district can provide during this closure but with the understanding that there will be an IEP meeting when school returns to discuss if Tommy requires compensatory education due to educational time lost due to the closure."

Some children might not need it but some children will which is why we do not let Law Firms dictate INDIVIDUALIZED Education Plans even during a national crisis and shutdowns of school. We still need to cover our children and write a statement showing our districts that we know what the Federal Guidance says and it does include the discussion about compensatory services even if they do not want you to know that.

Ms. Keeping it Real during this National Crisis, I will not let Reid Smith Law Firm advise districts to do things like this which is 'stealing' from our most vulnerable students when they are already in a crisis!

P.S. ---- YES, I said it --- go find some ETHICS!
It looks something like this:

Dear Parent

Due to the extended, statewide, school closure from COVID-19 by the Governor of Virginia, your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) will need to be amended. After consulting with you regarding your parental input, a Virginia School Public Schools (VSPS) is proposing that the following amendments to your child’s IEP dated (Date of last agreed upon IEP) are required and functionally available to be implemented:



For the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, all educational services will take place in the home, via tele-communication consult, however your child’s Least Restrictive Environment when school resumes will remain the same as indicated on the last agreed upon IEP.



Parent/Adult Student Consent

Virginia School Public Schools proposed changes to be implemented during the statewide mandated school closure. Enclosed you will find a copy of your Procedural Safeguards. If you need assistance in understanding this information, please contact your child’s case manager, (insert name) at (insert phone number & email), or principal, (insert name), at (insert phone number & email).

Parental Consent:

Indicate your response by initialing one of the following spaces below:

_________ I would like to schedule an IEP meeting.

________ I give consent to implement the proposed IEP amendments during the statewide mandated school closure without holding an IEP meeting.

________ I do not give consent to implement the IEP amendments during the statewide mandated school closure. I understand that at this time the accommodations, services and least restrictive environment in the last agreed upon IEP are not functionally available and cannot be implemented. I understand that the school division will provide the services proposed in the amendment

Parent/Adult Student Signature Date

Parent/Adult Student Name Student Name


Prior Written Notice:

___________ Is included.

___________ will be mailed within 10 days.


7 Resources for Homeschooling Kids With Learning Disabilities

I wrote this a few years ago when I was homeschooling my kids. Of course libraries are closed now, but these apps and other programs were very helpful to us then! "You too can successfully teach your child at home."

Achieve Balance

Advocates For Equity In Schools

Parents, do not be fooled....School divisions cannot blackmail you into consenting to their eligibility determination or retaliate by denying special education services all together.



While VA schools shut down now and many schools going to virtual learning those schools also need to provide instruction for children who are privately placed outside of the school district. But there is a snag in our children receiving services because our CSA (Community Services Agency)/FAPT Teams only provide funding to those private placements on the days the children are present. So our private placements are not being provided funding to pay their employees to provide anything during the closure because the children are not there.

It is time for all of us parents with children in private placements to start asking the questions now and ask them for IEP meetings to discuss what can be provided as our children can not access virtual learning so some of our kids require an IEP meeting to discuss what can be done.

Email your special education director and copy of your private placement representative at that location, copy your case manager on your IEP Team, copy your Senators and Representatives. There is NO MORE TIME to waste!

Here is an example of some language you could use:

"I am concerned that my child, ___________, is not receiving a free and appropriate public education, as the nature and severity of his (her) disability does not allow for online teaching tools covering other students during this time of crisis. As his protection for FAPE is guaranteed under IDEA and his educational needs are not being met due to your removal of funds from the educational team who knows his goals, implements his plan and manages his severe behavioral needs, I will be forced to consider further action if he does not receive his necessary services immediately. Please advise for direction by April 1, 2020 so I will know how to proceed.”

When speaking to your CPMT Directors and your Sped Directors, here are the excerpts from the stimulus documents that may be helpful for them to tap into financial resources (Ie., pay for our services) to help our children during this time of emergency
To find your local CSA agencies- Go to:

In the drop down- Select your district. In the second drop down- Select Role (You should look for the CPMT Chair and reach out to him/her and then look for the CSA Coordinator and reach out to him/her).


URGENT - We have a developing crisis in special education that requires your immediate attention.

The congressional stimulus package has a hidden rider which appears to start the process to roll back special education protections. This is the first time in my career that I have seen an effort to suspend IEP rights. If this effort is successful, I fear it will be the beginning of the end for special education protections.

Immediate action is required. I request that you consider sending in a communication to your elected officials (sample below) and forward this messaging along to at least five other families with special children. Now is the time to act.

Below, I have pasted a sample letter. Please consider sending this to to your elected officials and please commit to distributing it widely across your social networks as well:

March 22, 2020


YOUR Senator [NAME]
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Senator [NAME],

I am writing to you as my elected representative. I have a child with an IEP, and this issue is of utmost importance to me. I am a voter, and right now I need your support- my family depends on it.

The purpose of this letter is to urge you reject any provision that would grant the Secretary of Education authority to waive the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in whole or in part. While the COVID-19 outbreak is undoubtedly a difficult time for our nation, and indeed the world, disrupting services to children with disabilities any more than is absolutely necessary will cause irreparable damage to our nation’s students and their families.

Approximately 7 million children depend on special education services, and many of those children will experience irreversible regression if those services are suspended. They will not be able to compensate for lost instructional time the same way that their peers without special needs can; many of these children will lose essential foundational skills and as a result will be unable to access their education.

I am also concerned about the economic impact of suspending services, as families who depend on educational and therapeutic programming through their school districts will struggle to find alternative providers, and many will be unable to afford replacement services for their children. These same incredible providers (Speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, … will lose the opportunity to earn a fair wage and feed their families with the suspension of essential services. Preserving our investments in students now will protect the nation’s long term economic and social interests.

This is a trying time for all children and families, but children with special needs are among our most vulnerable community members and they need the support of IDEA now more than ever. As we look toward the future it is vital that we protect our children, and an essential component of that protection is ensuring that all children have the resources they need to learn and grow,



And please SHARE!

Our Story

I am the mother to eight children, five of whom were internationally adopted, several with significant needs. I have many years of experience in the Public School Special Education system advocating for my children. I also have many years of experience working with English Second Language programs as four of my children have both IEPs and ESL plans. When traditional therapy initially wasn’t made available for my kids in the school setting, I took them to a Brain Integration practitioner. After seeing the amazing results in my kids following Brain Integration Therapy, I decided to pursue becoming a practitioner myself so that I could continue the work with them at home. I have studied Neuroenergetic Kinesiology, Brain Integration, and am certified in Touch for Health.

I spent many years fighting with the public Special Education System, before pulling my kids out to homeschool for several years. It is nearly impossible for one mom to provide adequate services for multiple children with special needs though. So after obtaining Independent Evaluations that accurately identified my children’s needs, I went back to the IEP table with the public school system to try once again to obtain the help my children desperately needed. With the assistance of two amazing advocates, I was finally able to secure the proper placement for four of my children.

I provide mainly educational consulting and advocacy services, but I also offer Brain Integration work. I have found that knowing both how to advocate and how to address issues as they come up at home has been life changing for our family. I also have a couple of “self help” educational videos for parents on my YouTube Channel that explain the questions I am most frequently asked.

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Help! How Do I Quarantine-School my Special Needs Child!?



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