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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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 →
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 →
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 →
“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 →
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 →
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.
Earlier today I posted on our Special Education Advisor Facebook page that I had written a letter to my son’s School District regarding his upcoming transition meeting. The IEP Team doesn’t feel they have the Authority to consider alternative School sites other than his home school and that the only discussion can be about class type (i.e general education class, resource specialist program, special day class, etc.). My husband and I disagree and we just wanted to make sure the team is aware of our concerns prior to the upcoming meeting. Since posting on Facebook many of you have privately requested a copy of our letter. I have decided to post a sanitized version of the letter below but it is still very specific to my son and the State of California. If you decide to write a similar letter make sure you rework the components of the letter to be specific to your child and State.
March 28, 2012Ms. Assistant Principal __________ Elementary School
Re: ____________ Upcoming Transition IEP Meeting
Dear Ms. ______,
As you are aware our son is graduating from _________ Elementary School this year and transitioning into middle school in the fall of 2012. Based on prior conversations with the IEP Team it was brought to our attention that the School Staff only has the authority to offer our home school, ________ Middle School, as the site location for _________ to attend middle school. Please see the language below from the California Education Code 5 CCR 3042 regarding Placement:
(a) Specific educational placement means that unique combination of facilities, personnel, location or equipment necessary to provide instructional services to an individual with exceptional needs, as specified in the individualized education program, in any one or a combination of public, private, home and hospital, or residential settings.
(b) The individualized education program team shall document its rationale for placement in other than the pupil’s school and classroom in which the pupil would otherwise attend if the pupil were not handicapped. The documentation shall indicate why the pupil’s handicap prevents his or her needs from being met in a less restrictive environment even with the use of supplementary aids and services.
As you can see from above, specific educational placement includes the following language; “that unique combination of facilities, personnel, location or equipment necessary to provide instructional services to an individual with exceptional needs.” This definition should open the door to discuss not only the type of classroom that _______ should be placed into but which School site is most appropriate for his needs.
______’s eligibility for Special Education is a specific learning disability (SLD) but if the school district allowed for a secondary eligibility on their IEP forms he would also qualify for a Language Disorder. On the Social Language Development Test (SLDT-E) administered on ________ in November 2011 his standard score for the total test was <60. This places him in the 0.1% for children his age or another way to state this is 99.9% of children my son’s age scored higher than him on social language/pragmatics. This is a significant delay that impacts many areas of his education and his ability to receive a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). In the report provided by the District’s Speech Language Pathologist she noted:
As _______ transitions into middle school his inappropriate negotiation skills will be considered immature to his peers. _________’s ability to support his peers is vital to maintain healthy friendships.
With this in mind, we have grave concerns about placing _________ at _________ Middle School or any Middle School of that size. ____________ Middle School has over 2000 students and this is not an appropriate “Specific educational placement” for him to attend middle school in order to receive FAPE.
Even with multiple goals written for social language and the services of both the District’s Recreational Therapist and SLP he is struggling to make progress at the elementary school let alone a much larger middle school. During the months of January and February _________ spent almost every lunch and recess alone playing with a hula hoop and didn’t talk to anyone all day except for saying “hi” to a few children. He has since started playing with the kids again only because we have encouraged him to do so.
Goals drive services and placement in an IEP and ________ has two goals regarding social language and social functioning:
- ________ will express age appropriate social skills (conflict resolution and supporting peers) in structured language tasks with 80% accuracy;
- ________ will use presented visual strategies to be able to initiate engagement with a peer or initiate engagement in an activity at least once per day, 4/5 days per week for 6 consecutive weeks with one adult cue or prompt.
We do not feel that a large middle school such as _______ Middle School is conducive to accomplishing these goals and will thus deny my son FAPE. We have done some research and found that the School District will be opening a new K-8 school near us, ___________ Community School. While __________ Community School is not our home school, I would like to discuss this as an option at the upcoming transition IEP meeting. According to the __________ Community School website, “Our school will eventually serve 960 students kindergarten through 8 grade. In our first year, we are anticipating serving K-7th grade with approximately 550 students.”
If the IEP Team has other School Site suggestions, we are open to discussing these at the IEP meeting as well. Otherwise we look forward to discussing all of the viable School site options at the upcoming IEP and not just his home school of ___________.
Thank you for your cooperation in this matter. If you have any questions or comments feel free to call us at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Cc: Student Support Services
So, you made it halfway through the IEP. The IEP team discussed your child’s academic performance, goals and objectives were identified, and accommodations and/or modifications have been suggested. Now, IEP team moves on to the subject of placement and mentions that there are a continuum of placement options that must be discussed. This is where some parents get confused or feel that they are forced into a box on where and how the school will provide services for their child. Read the rest of this entry →
Many teachers, school administrators, and parents of children in special education are confused about the meaning of “Least Restrictive Environment” (LRE). Often, they erroneously define it as placement in a general education class. Not surprisingly, confusion about the definition can inflame disputes between parents and schools, resulting in costly and emotionally exhausting due process hearings. Adding to the likelihood of disputes is the failure of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) and its predecessors to adequately define LRE. Perhaps this is inevitable as LRE cannot be applied by classification or disability or IQ; it must be applied in an individualistic and personalized manner that focuses solely on the child. Read the rest of this entry →