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Top 10 Items that Should Be Listed in an IEP

April 10, 2014 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

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 →

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Least Restrictive Environment (Legal, Judicial and Practical meaning)

March 8, 2013 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

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:

“In General.  To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily” 20 U.S.C § 1412(a)(5)(A). Read the rest of this entry →

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Educational placements from Least Restrictive to Most Restrictive

October 10, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Dennise Goldberg

Least Restrictive Environment is defined as “In General.  To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily” 20 U.S.C § 1412(a)(5)(A).  Below is list of educational placements from least restrictive to most restrictive: Read the rest of this entry →

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When a Child’s Disability becomes the “Elephant in the Room”

October 3, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

The phrase “Elephant in the Room” has been a part of the English language for a very long time; I’m sure as adults we’ve all used it in conversation at one time or another.  Wikipedia defines it as “is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed.”  The two words that I think stand out the most in the definition are “ignored” and “unaddressed.”  Let’s now apply this definition to children with disabilities; the “Elephant in the Room” in many schools or households is a child with a disability.  There are many reasons why a child’s disability may be ignored or not addressed.  Read the rest of this entry →

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Your Child Doesn’t Belong in My Classroom

September 30, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

To belong, to fit in, to be suitable, to be appropriate or to be a member of a club, organization, or set; this is what we all want for our children.  So nothing hurts worse than when your child’s Teacher tells you, “Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom.”  What you hear as a parent is a statement of your child’s failings.  What I hear is an admission of a denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for your child.  Let me give you a few examples of what you are not hearing but is implied in this statement:

  1. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the school will not provide the appropriate aides and supports necessary to educate your child;
  2. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I am not capable of educating your child;
  3. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I don’t want to take the time to differentiate my instruction and find the method that your child learns;
  4. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the District has increased my class size to 45 students and has not provided me with a paraprofessional to help lessen my load;
  5. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I don’t want to follow his IEP because it takes too much time and energy;
  6. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because the School District refuses to spend money on children with special needs; and
  7. Your child doesn’t belong in my classroom because I am a bad teacher.

The last example I want to explain, because I realize that I may have angered many educators.  Just like every profession there are a few who are great at what they do, a few that are awful at what they do and many that are somewhere in between.  Teaching is no exception and if you have uttered the phrase, “Your child doesn’t belong in my class,” you land solidly on the far left of the bell curve in the well below average category of Teaching.  Even if you made this statement due to constraints caused by the School District, this statement is not acceptable.  We all have the right to belong, and we also all have the right to be educated.  This doesn’t mean I believe every child should be educated in a mainstream class; inevitably, many school districts will not provide the necessary supports needed for inclusion to be successful.  I do however feel that every child deserves to be respected and to tell them or their parents they “don’t belong” is not appropriate.

About a month ago I went to my son’s back to school night.  This is his first year in Middle School so we spent about 5 to 10 minutes in each class.  The second class I went into was his social studies room and the Teacher started her discussion by stating, “I am going to set the bar really high this year for every student.  I don’t care that this isn’t my honors class I am going to set the bar high and every single student WILL move higher than they thought they could.  They might not all make it to the top but I will take them ALL as high as they can go.”  She then read this poem:

She then walked us through the various methods she uses to teach including visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic.  To determine how each of her students learn she conducted a learning style assessment on the first day of school and used those results to modify her teaching style.  If you haven’t realized it yet this Teacher lands on the far right of the bell curve in the well above average category for Teaching.

The morale of this little exercise is that there are good teachers and bad teachers, good school districts and bad school districts.  So, if your child’s Teacher tells you, “Your child doesn’t belong in my class,” it’s time to find a new placement.  It’s time to find a new placement not because your child doesn’t belong but because your child deserves better.  Your child deserves a Teacher like my son’s social studies Teacher who is going to push them and help them fly.

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Dear Colleague: Least Restrictive Environment Applies to Preschool

July 28, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

“Dear Colleague” might be my two favorite words in the English language when they are being spoken by Melody Musgrove, Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (“OSEP”) for the United States.  Anytime I see a letter from OSEP starting with Dear Colleague, I know I’m about to get a smile on my face.  OSEP doesn’t send these types of letters out unless they feel the School Districts are seriously misrepresenting the intention of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and need a little prodding to get them back on track (this is my opinion anyway).   In the most recent example of the Dear Colleague letter, we get guidance on whether Least Restrictive Environment applies to preschool placement; guess what, it does and I have a grin from ear to ear.  If Jerry had Dorothy at hello in the movie Jerry McGuire, this letter had me at the first sentence: Read the rest of this entry →

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by Jess

Inclusion Isn’t Just for “High Functioning” Kids with ASD

May 30, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

It seems that there is a popular belief system that only “high functioning” kids with ASD can be served in inclusive classrooms. Many stakeholders including parents of kids with ASD, special education teachers, general education teachers, and administrators share this belief. I am going to go out on a limb here and challenge those of you who believe that inclusion is only for “high functioning” kids to read further and see if I can persuade you to think about it differently. Regardless of ability and functioning levels, all children should have opportunities to be included in general education classrooms to learn alongside their typically developing peers. The learning opportunities that take place in general education classrooms cannot be replicated in self-contained special education classrooms. The question that often comes up is this: “How do you know when you should place a student with autism (or any other disability for that matter) in an inclusive classroom?” While my first instinct is to say, “All kids should be included in general education classrooms,” I know that answer doesn’t cut it. Read the rest of this entry →

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Special Education Advisor is 2 Years Old!!

May 29, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

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:

Brief History of Special Education Court Cases 

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.

What is an IEP?

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:

How to Prepare for your Next IEP Meeting

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.

Proposed DSM 5 Changes and Autism: What Parents & Advocates Need to Know

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).

Least Restrictive Environment (Legal, Judicial and Practical meaning)

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:

Disability Categories under IDEA

The following list outlines the definitions of each of the disability categories established under the Individuals with Disabilities Education (Improvement) Act of 2004 (“IDEA”)

2012 Update: Essential Special Education Twitter Feeds to Follow

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.

IEP Goals And Objectives: Are These Any Good?

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.

Top Ten Questions to Ask at an IEP

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.

A Letter to the MOTHER Who Rolled Her Eyes at My Son

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.

Brief History Of Special Education Legislation

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:

A Letter to Ron Clark: What Parents Really Want to Tell Teachers

Dear Ron,

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.

What Is The Orton-Gillingham Approach?

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.

Special Education Facebook Pages to Like

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.

Top Ten Parental Rights in Special Education

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.

OSEP Provides Guidance on the Number of Transition Goals Required in an 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.

Seven Things I Wish Someone had Told Me When My Daughter Was First Diagnosed with Autism

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.

IEP Recreation: There is no Friendship Algorithm

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:

Discipline for Children with IEPs

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.

Five Practical Sensory Strategies for the Classroom

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.

Please Step Away From the Child! The Misuse of Paraprofessionals in Inclusive Classrooms

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:

Ten Related Services for an IEP you may not know about

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.

FREE Common Core Standards App

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.

Change Your Ways!

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.

Dear School Personnel, Community Members and Neighbors

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.

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Are Least Restrictive Environments Actually Most Restrictive Environment In Disguise for Deaf Students?

May 10, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Doug Goldberg

As of 2004, the definition of ‘least restrictive environment’ as written in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): “To the maximum extent appropriate, children with disabilities, including children in public or private institutions or other care facilities, are educated with children who are not disabled, and special classes, separate schooling, or other removal of children with disabilities from the regular educational environment occurs only when the nature or severity of the disability of a child is such that education in regular classes with the use of supplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.

Essentially what that means is that the law views public schools as the “least restrictive environment.” But we have to remember the majority of laws that were passed have been written by hearing people, with little or no input from Deaf people. To hearing people, public schools are least restrictive in the sense that hearing people do not need to worry about accessibility issues or accommodations. Can we say the same about Deaf students? Are public schools truly “least restrictive environment” for Deaf students? Many hearing legislators, hearing administrators, and the hearing society want to believe that Deaf students can attend a public school and do just fine, as long as the Deaf student has cochlear implant and is hearized to the fullest extent possible. Bills have been proposed with this belief in mind, such as House Bill 1367 in Indiana and Assembly Bill 2072 in California, for example. If schools for the deaf can be closed down as result of such bills, it’s a nice benefit in eyes of most legislators, administrators and society. Why waste money on schools for the deaf when it can be funneled toward public schools? Read the rest of this entry →

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Parents need to be Open to the Appropriate Learning Environment

April 3, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

The end of the school year is approaching; therefore, many parents around the country are debating the placement issue for the next school year. It’s a very important decision because if it’s not the appropriate placement, your child could either fall behind or will not be challenged enough. As concerned parents, we hope that we’ve made the correct decision for our child. The question is; did we have all the necessary information to make an informed decision?

Once again, time to go back to the beginning. Assessments are an essential component of updating a child’s present levels of performance. The first thing required in any Individualized Education Program (IEP) is “a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.” If you look closely at the language there are actually two parts that need to be analyzed, “academic achievement” and “functional performance”. Since neither of these terms are defined this created questions that were discussed in the Federal Register page 46662:

Comment: A few commenters stated that § 300.320(a)(1) requires an IEP to include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement, and recommended that the regulations define ‘‘academic achievement.’’

Discussion: ‘‘Academic achievement’’ generally refers to a child’s performance in academic areas (e.g., reading or language arts, math, science, and history). We believe the definition could vary depending on a child’s circumstance or situation, and therefore, we do not believe a definition of ‘‘academic achievement’’ should be included in these regulations.

Comment: Some commenters recommended that the regulations clarify that not every child requires a functional performance statement or functional annual goals. Some commenters stated that requiring functional assessments for all children places an unnecessary burden on an LEA, does not add value for every child, and creates a potential for increased litigation. One commenter recommended that § 300.320(a)(1), regarding the child’s present levels of performance, and § 300.320(a)(2), regarding measurable annual goals, clarify that functional performance and functional goals should be included in a child’s IEP only if determined appropriate by the child’s IEP Team.

Discussion: We cannot make the changes requested by the commenters. Section 614(d)(1)(A)(i)(I) of the Act requires an IEP to include a statement of the child’s present levels of academic achievement and functional performance.

As you can see without updating both parts of the present levels of performances and knowing a child’s strengths and weaknesses, it’s impossible to make an informed decision about the appropriate placement. If you make a decision about placement before you have current data on your child, you might place your child in an environment that’s either too quick or slow paced.

For example, if your child is currently in a Special Day Class and you would like to begin mainstreaming them next year. I would recommend updating your child’s psycho-educational assessment to base your decision on. I mention this because sometimes report cards can be deceiving and do not tell the complete picture regarding a child’s true strengths and weaknesses. If a child is mainstreamed before they are ready, they can experience stress and anxiety if they cannot keep up and fall behind.

The other side of the coin is when a child is placed in an environment that might be considered too low-functioning. When this occurs, the child is not receiving an education that will allow them to work to their full potential. Many children who have a disability such as Autism, ADHD or SLD, are mainstreamed.

Once again, I stress the need to make sure all the necessary assessments have been performed prior to making a decision about your child’s placement. You cannot have a productive IEP meeting with your school district about the appropriate placement for your child until you have all the facts to base your decision on. The key is to keep an open mind about placement until that time so that you can place your child in the appropriate learning environment.

 

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