I think I am a fairly reasonable person. I know how to pick my battles and when to use honey to catch flies. This spelling conundrum is getting the better of me. Let me refresh your memory and then give you an update. Awhile back I shared a story about an IEP where the resource teacher and general education teacher unanimously agreed that the 5th grade student with dyslexia really didn’t need to know how to spell because, “…after all, they don’t really need it in middle school anyway and he can just use spell check.” I then put their theory to the test and found that if this student relied solely on spell check in WORD, he would still misspell 27% of the words. Read the rest of this entry →
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The Goals and Objectives section of the IEP is the”meat” of the IEP. Goals and objectives should be directly linked to the child’s educational needs. Special educators determine what a child’s education needs are through formal and informal assessments, through observations of the child’s behaviors and social interactions, through parent feedback, through work products the child creates and through evaluating the child’s level of success with different teaching interventions. The goals and objectives are the specific skills the child is going to learn during the course of the IEP, which is usually one year. Read the rest of this entry →
It happened again. I was in an IEP for a student with dyslexia who is struggling with spelling the most. This GATE-identified young man is in the 5th grade and spelling phonetically, yet he was not receiving services for spelling last year – which is why I am now involved in the IEP process. The meeting was somewhat tense from the beginning, but when we got to the spelling goal this is what was presented: Thomas will be taught to memorize and spell 200 of the most common sight words. Hmm. Ok. So, my response: Can we change this goal so that we are actually teaching him to spell versus just memorizing some words? This is when I got the death stare and then silence. I interpreted the silence to mean that the RSP teacher didn’t know how to write the goal because she did not know how to teach a kid who is spelling phonetically how to spell. Then she said it, and the general ed teacher agreed with a nod of his head: He is going to middle school next year and he really doesn’t need to know how to spell anymore. I mean they don’t give spelling tests. My heart started to pound and then she added the ubiquitous suggestion: He can just learn to use spell check. Read the rest of this entry →
We as parents spend a lot of time advocating for our children when they are young. However, there comes a time when our children become older and they have to learn how to advocate for themselves; knowing when the time is right will depend on your child. If your child is still attending elementary school, they are most likely NOT mature enough to participate. For those of you who have children in middle school, now is the time to think about the prospect of someday having your child attend their own IEP meeting. Read the rest of this entry →
I am noticing a disturbing trend when I read IEPs and I have had some nonsensical conversations about reading with IEP teams lately as well. This trend and these conversations center around the goals section of the IEP. What this has revealed to me is what I have suspected all along – there is a lack of expertise and understanding of not only dyslexia, but the progression of teaching reading and the components of the reading process. To correct this trend I offer the following examples to illustrate some fallacies about reading as well as how to fix goals.
Parents have asked me, how important are the goals anyway? Remember: needs drive goals and goals drive services. The school is only held responsible for the goals that are set and agreed upon in the IEP. If they are low or incorrect and the IEP is signed, the school is only responsible for those goals. It seems to make more sense to make sure the goals are written so that the child receives some educational benefit and that the goals make pedagogical sense. For example, if there is a need for fluency improvement then there should be a goal for that. Is there is a need for spelling, there should be a goal for that. If there is a need for sight word improvement, then there should be a goal for that. If there are ten needs, then there are ten goals. There is no limit to the number of goals an IEP can have.
IEP Team: We did not include a fluency goal because he is only reading 12 words per minute correctly right now, so what is the point in teaching fluency?
For those of you who have read my prior articles, you can just insert a snarky comment here. I will only say, really? I have to admit, I was speechless while I gathered my thoughts to respond. When reading improvement is a need, the IEP should always include a fluency goal. Fluency is the ultimate goal of reading and needs to be taught and practiced from day one. Make sure the baseline has a present WPM, not just a grade level. The goal WPM should be high enough that it would be noticeable and measurable progress. Additionally, the tool to assess should be the same for progress monitoring.
IEP Team: We did not include a phonological awareness goal because we have a vocabulary goal.
Again, this is simply a lack of awareness of the reading process. If a child is struggling with single word reading, nonword reading, spelling, and/or fluency, then it is a need and they require a phonological awareness goal. Vocabulary and phonological awareness are not one in the same; in fact they are two entirely separate components of reading. Phonological awareness teaches the student to understand and manipulate the language by understanding phonemes, syllable types and spelling rules. This is accomplished using a multisensory, structured, sequential program. Because we are talking about students with dyslexia, they will always need a phonological processing goal. It is also imperative that the program being used and the teacher qualifications be documented in the IEP – usually in the notes section.
Below is a real example. Please read it and ask yourself what is wrong with the goal.
Proposed Goal: John will be able decode multisyllabic words that include words with long vowel sounds (a,e,i) in words like turmoil and chipper.
Did you find the problems? Are you stunned? Embarrassed for the author of this goal? It is very common to see goals like this and this is a fabulous illustration of the importance of nit-picking the goals. Here are the problems: 1) where are o and u, 2) what grade level, how many words – where is the measurable part of the goal, 3) the goal states that only one concept will be learned in a year (the long vowel sound of only three of the vowels), 4) and last but certainly not least, turmoil and chipper do not contain long vowel sounds!
Below is the same goal rewritten:
New Goal: When given a list of 50 words Scott will be able to accurately decode multisyllabic words that contain closed, open, vowel teams and vowel-consonant-e (beside, statement, remain) syllable types with 90% accuracy as measured by teacher records.
This new goal includes more than one syllable type which means he is expected to learn more than the original goal suggested, it is measurable, and most importantly, the words used as examples are correct and show an understanding of what John will actually be learning.
IEP Team: We don’t really teach spelling, we just do worksheets and weekly tests.
For students who are not struggling, this might work. For those with dyslexia, this is disastrous. The fact of the matter is that most teachers and curriculum developers do not know any other way to teach spelling. How to teach spelling is a topic for another article (please see http://www.wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Home.html for an extremely effective way to teach spelling – I have no affiliation, but always share a wonderful resource), but if there is a need to improve spelling, then there is a goal for spelling. Additionally, this should be a stand-alone goal, not grouped in with sight words, etc.
Here is an example of an acceptable, measurable spelling goal with high expectations:
New Goal: When presented with a list of 50 multisyllabic third grade words that includes closed, open and vowel-consonant-e syllable types, John will accurately spell them with 90% accuracy.
Again, ask the IEP to document in the notes how this will be accomplished.
Some additional tips about goals for students with dyslexia:
- Goals should say either 90% or 4/5 times, but not both.
- Goals should be measureable.
- Goals should respond to each and every need identified by assessments and teacher observations.
- No one reading goal should include more than one component of reading. (i.e. comprehension, fluency and phonological awareness should not be in the same goal – they are different skills).
- Baselines need to accurate and current. They need to include data, not subjective descriptions.
- Improving the reading and writing of sight words are stand-alone goals.
- Goals should be written to expect significant progress. Beware of the low-expectation goals.
Read the IEP from the top down. The present levels need to include data, not observations. Goals should be directly derived from assessments and progress monitoring. Every need should be addressed. Goals drive services, so if the goals are incomplete, low or inaccurate, the services will be incomplete and ineffective. It never hurts to ask an expert to read the IEP and get a second opinion. For students with dyslexia, goals can be very tricky, but they are the pinnacle of the IEP – make them count.
Dr. Kelli Sandman-Hurley is the co-founder of the Dyslexia Training Institute (www.dyslexiatraininginstitute.org and www.dyslexiadr.com.) She is currently writing Putting the D in to the IEP and you can read excerpts at www.dyslexiadr.blogspot.com. She received her doctorate in Literacy with a specialization in reading and dyslexia from San Diego State University and the University of San Diego. Dr. Sandman-Hurley a Certified Special Education Advocate assisting parents and children through the Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Plan process. She is an adjunct professor of reading, literacy coordinator and a tutor trainer. Kelli is trained by a fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy and in the Lindamood-Bell, RAVE-O and Wilson Reading Programs. Kelli is the Past-President of the San Diego Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, as well as a board member of the Southern California Library Literacy Network (SCLLN). She is a professional developer for California Library Literacy Services (CLLS) as well as a Literacy Consultant for the San Diego Council on Literacy. She was awarded the Jane Johnson Fellowship and the Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) scholarship. Kelli has presented at numerous conferences as well as provided professional development for k-12 teachers. She is currently working on her book, Putting the D in IEP: A guide to dyslexia in the school system. Join the Dyslexia Training Institute at www.facebook.com/dyslexiatraining
Special Education Advocates or IEP Advocates help parents write appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and attain special education services for their child with a disability from their public school system. They do so by familiarizing themselves with the special education process. Please be aware, advocates are not attorneys. However, advocates are extremely helpful in IEP meetings to assist in the negotiation process between parents and their school. The Advocate can provide information about special education options and requirements and can help seek specific services or programs. The advocate knows local schools resources and can see solutions others might not. A Special Education Advocate is: Read the rest of this entry →
We all know how important it is to have an IEP that addresses our child’s Academic, Developmental and Functional needs; to ensure they are appropriately prepared for an independent future. Therefore, as parents, we have to make sure our child’s IEP includes the necessary information to prepare them for life after high school. The results of your child’s most recent assessments, report cards, state tests, school personnel and parent input will assist the team in developing an appropriate IEP. Read the rest of this entry →
Recently, in one of my classes, we had a debate regarding the importance of data collection in the classroom. Everyone had varying opinions on the importance of data, but one of my classmates was adamant in her stance:
I’m totally against taking data. I don’t see the point. It’s too time consuming and it’s time better spent with my students. I know if my kids are doing better or if they need help. I don’t need data to tell me this.
I should start by saying (in case this teacher is reading this) that I have a lot of respect her. She works with a tough population, is passionate about her work, and isn’t afraid to express her opinions. Read the rest of this entry →
Five little words, made up of only sixteen letters that every parent has uttered at one point or another if their child has an IEP. Who we said it to isn’t as important as the fact that we have all said it. I have written in the past about my Top Ten Special Education Pet Peeves and the Top Ten Most Ridiculous Comments I Ever Heard at an IEP but it’s time to discuss a new topic. Below are the top responses heard after I uttered the words, “but it’s in their IEP.” Read the rest of this entry →
Special Education Advisor started out as a way to help parents educate themselves on the Special Education process in the United States. I wanted to create a non-threatening place for parents to come and learn to be their child’s best advocate in an IEP meeting. That was it that was my dream. What has occurred in the preceding 2 years has been nothing short of amazing. With no budget and 2 employees, my husband and I, we set out on this journey and many of you have come along for the ride. We now have a vibrant community which includes more than 40,000 visitors per month and growing.
Originally, my husband and I did all of the content on the website ourselves but then one day we got an email. A Special Education Professional introduced herself and asked if she could write a guest post for SEA. Wow, why didn’t I think of that? We added a page on the website where parents, educators and other professionals could submit guest articles and we never looked back. Today, we post a minimum of 5 new articles per week including 3 guest articles. The subject of these articles while still heavily IEP related, now cover a vast array of different special needs related content. We are constantly looking for new areas to cover and in the last 4 months added an app and product review section.
We wanted to take a moment and personally thank all of our visitors, members, twitter followers, facebook fans, pinteresters and google plusers for coming along for the ride. That was a mouth full, but you get the idea. We spend an abundant amount of our time, 7 days a week, on SEA and interacting with all of you makes it worthwhile. We hope you will continue with us on this journey and help us spread the word about SEA in the coming years.
In the meantime, below is a list of 25 of our most popular articles from the last two years:
Just as the 1970’s began the passing of legislation for children with disabilities it was also the start of some of its most important court cases. Two cases in particular were the Pennsylvania Association for Retarded Children (PARC) v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 343 Fed. Supp. 279, (1972) and Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia, 348 F. Supp. 866 (1972). In both PARC and Mills the judges struck down local laws that excluded children with disabilities from schools. They established that children with a disability have a right to a public education and access to an education.
An IEP is an Individualized Education Program for children who qualify for special education services by their local public school district. It is not an Individual Education Plan. Why isn’t it a Plan? As the old saying goes, “plans are made to be broken!” A program on the other hand must be followed!! Congress in their infinite wisdom got this one right. It is a legally binding document that must be followed to the letter of the law and tailored to meet your child’s unique needs. An IEP must include:
Life is hectic when raising a child with special needs. Parents are constantly dealing with therapies, medical appointments, administering medicine, and life in general. To make matters worse parents are telling me they keep hearing in IEP meetings from School District personnel, “If you don’t like our offer take us to due process”. This makes it even more important to be prepared for your next meeting. This article will help you truly prepare for the next IEP meeting.
In May of 2013 the new diagnostic criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder will be distributed to doctors via the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5). Think of the DSM 5 as the Bible of diagnostic criteria, developed and written by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
The term Least Restrictive Environment is thrown around a lot in special education but what does it really mean. There is the legal definition which states:
The following list outlines the definitions of each of the disability categories established under the Individuals with Disabilities Education (Improvement) Act of 2004 (“IDEA”)
Below is a list of Special Education Twitter Feeds worth following. The list includes Parents, Educators, Advocates, Attorneys, Therapists and National Organizations. This list should keep you up to date on everything happening in and around the world of Special Education.
To develop IEP goals (and, in some states and situations, objectives) that are meaningful, measurable, and manageable, requires a preliminary step that too many IEP Teams rush though: Writing a quality Present Levels section (“present levels of academic achievement and functional performance”) of the IEP. This section forms the basis and justification for all goals and objectives. In turn, the goals and objectives form the basis for all services and placements.
If your child has an IEP, the following top ten list is comprised of generic questions that all parents should be asking. This list is not specific to any disability or situation.
Dear Other Mother at Physical Therapy,
For the past three days I have watched you roll your eyes at my son. I can see your annoyance with him when he gets loud and interrupts your quiet making it hard for you to read your book. I saw your anger when he accidentally bumped into you and just kept going instead of stopping to say he was sorry. I hear the hostility in your voice as you yell for the technicians to pay attention to your daughter and stop giving my boy extra attention. And for three days I have said nothing.
Prior to the 1970’s special education in the United States was in a dismal state. Many children with a disability were denied access to a public education. Most of these children were either home schooled, did not receive any education at all or worse yet were institutionalized. The foundation of today’s special education law was passed in 1975 and enacted in 1977. This was Public Law 94-142, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EHA). This law introduced the concepts of:
I have recently read your article, “What Teachers Really Want to Tell Parents” and found it to be ill-conceived, short sided and quite frankly wrong on many accounts. I am aware of your accolades and achievements as written in the editor’s note prior to the article but I will also point you to Rule #51 in your Essential 55 Rules, “Live so that you will never have regrets”. If you don’t already, I feel you will learn to regret writing this article. This article has the ability to create an even bigger chasm between Parents and Teachers. Parent Involvement in a Child’s Education, as proven by 20 years of research, is one of the most effective methods in a child’s academic success. Educating our children needs to be a partnership between Parents and Teachers. Especially, since school age children spend 70% of their time outside of school. Your article makes it painfully aware that your idea of a Parent – Teacher partnership is one where Parents do everything you ask without input or questions.
The Orton-Gillingham approach is a unique language training system that was designed by Dr. Samuel Orton and Anna Gillingham. Dr. Orton, a neuropsychiatrist and pathologist, was a pioneer in focusing attention on reading failure and related language processing difficulties. He revolutionized modern thought concerning learning disabilities, determining that language-based disorders were biological and not environmental in origin. He brought together neuroscientific information and principles of remediation, having extensively studied children with the kind of language processing difficulties now commonly associated with dyslexia and formulating a set of teaching principles and practices for such children. He strongly believed that such disorders would respond to specific training if properly diagnosed and if the proper training methods to meet the needs of each particular case were instituted.
The following is a list of Facebook pages that do a wonderful job of tracking, educating and informing on all aspects of Special Education and advocacy. Anyone that has a child with an individualized education program (IEP) or individual family service plan (IFSP) should like these pages.
10. Parents have the right to request that their child be assessed for Special Education without delay.
9. Parents have the right to list all of their concerns in the IEP.
When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was reauthorized in 2004 the U. S. Department of Education through the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) required states to develop State Performance Plans based on 20 indicators. The data would be submitted annually, by each State, in Annual Performance Reports. The 13th Indicator, or Indicator 13, relates to transition services for students.
1. You’re not alone. No, really, really not alone. About one in 110 of us are on the autism spectrum. Throughout the world, autism affects all races, social classes, religions, and income levels. You are going to meet some amazing people who are walking this road right with you. You may even find that you or your spouse are on the spectrum, but that’s a whole ‘nother subject.
Making friends isn’t easy for anyone but becomes even more difficult if you are a child with special needs who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP). While most schools use an IEP to primarily focus on academics, one of the most overlooked uses is to help with socialization and recreation. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) allows for support services, known as “Related Services” that helps the child receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The definition of Related Services as defined by IDEA says:
Disciplining a child with a disability is one of the most complicated issues surrounding the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004. Parents, a lot of times, feel helpless and don’t know who or where to turn when their child with a disability is constantly acting out at school and being suspended. This article will help explain what rights your child with an IEP has when dealing with discipline issues.
Children with special needs very often present with sensory integration difficulties, where their neurological systems are not organizing and responding appropriately to the multitude of sensory information that is entering their system. Intact sensory integration is important for all activities a child does, especially participating and being available for learning in a classroom environment. When a child’s sensory system is dysregulated we may see behaviors such as hyperactivity, poor attention, low arousal/energy, emotional outbursts, or inappropriate social interactions. Many of these children are in classrooms of twenty-five students (or likely more ) with one teacher. How can we support these children in school to better ensure their sensory needs are met in order to be successful students? Working in collaboration with teachers I have found these strategies to be effective and practical in general education settings.
I may upset a few parents with this post, but just know that I what I am about to say is in the best interest of your children. Many, many, many (did I say many?) parents insist that their children with autism have “shadows” when they are included in general education classrooms. Parents tell one another things like, “Whatever you do, make sure the shadow is assigned to your child, not the classroom.” In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is to assign a non-certified staff person to a child. In fact, it is not just my opinion. Research has shown that having a shadow assigned to a student can have detrimental effects (Downing, Ryndak, & Clark, 2000); Giangreco & Broer, 2005). Some of the documented negative effects of having shadows assigned to students include:
In General the term Related Service means services designed to enable a child with a disability to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) as described in the Individualized Education Program (IEP) as may be required to assist a child with a disability to benefit from special education. The Related Services most people are familiar with are Speech and Language Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Transportation.
Consider this your call to action! The Common Core Standards are coming to your State and every Teacher and Parent of a child with special needs MUST have this free app on their phone, tablet or iPad. As a parent of a child with special needs I don’t go to my son’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) meeting without a copy of California’s State Standards for his grade level. I use these standards to write goals for my son’s IEP based on his individualized needs.
For most of us, the drive to change our own behavior emerges on or around on January 1st with the dawn of a new year and new possibilities for self improvement. Loose a little weight, stop smoking, exercise more, and eat leafy greens seem to be among the favorites. Most of us are pretty conservative and only select 1 (maybe 2) goals to tackle each year. After all, we are only human and it takes a lot of thinking to change a pattern or ingrained routine. If you’re diligent and work hard, you might see a change but for most of us….it’s an exercise in futility somewhere around March 1st. Why does that happen? How do we lose our “oomph” and why do we slip back into our old, familiar ways. Why can’t we learn to change our ways? These are all questions that we ought to be asking, but rarely do. Instead, we wait until the following year and begin the process all over again. Why? Because changing a behavior is REALLY hard, even when highly motivated to do so.
To Whom it May Concern,
I am the parent of a special needs child. I was overwhelmed, confused, heart broken and struggling to unravel the complexities before me.
Please do not pass judgement of me without knowing why I did not attend the school PTA breakfasts or community picnics. Please take a few minutes to understand why I did not take you up on your offer to have lunch or grab a cup of coffee. Although we see each other in the supermarket or at school functions, I don’t think you really ever knew me, actually, I can guarantee that you did not know me because just as my child was different, so was I.